How to Use Introductions to Strengthen Your Relationship Network

How often do you make or receive personal introductions? Considering the value that’s created through personal networks, I wonder why people don’t do it more often.

For example, this week I received an email from a new client we’d landed because of a personal introduction. “Thank you!” said the subject line, expressing very clearly the value this client felt they’d gotten from the work our team had completed.

Another example happened at church last week, when someone assured me, “The person you introduced me to is now moving through our hiring process. Thank you!”

You and I each possess what you might call “relationship capital.” This is the valuable trust, reputation, and intimacy shared with others. Unlike financial capital, you don’t lose it when you give it away. Relationship capital, transferred by introductions, creates real value and goodwill. Assuming the transfer is done well, your original capital balance never goes down; it often goes up.

Why don’t we make more introductions? Perhaps we’re too busy, don’t get asked, or feel protective of relationships. But consider the value you could create if you did it more often.

Here are some best practices for doing it right:

  1. Cultivate relationships. Trust and connection requires investment. This means regularly thinking about others, showing up where they are, and treating others with great care. Introductions shouldn’t be made or given without a quality relationship in place.
  2. Give before you get. The best personal introductions are earned. This happens through a combination of doing things for others and creating introductions for others. One of my mentors is known for constantly helping others make connections. As a result, connections come back to him.
  3. Set expectations before you ask. Try to get permission to ask for an introduction before you actually ask for an introduction. This past year I asked a friend of a friend whether she’d be willing to broker some introductions for me. She agreed. Three months later I asked for the introductions. It doesn’t need to be a three-month lag, but sometimes planting the seed early ensures a more productive harvest.
  4. Make it about value not a transaction. When I asked my friend’s friend for the introductions, I made no reference to wanting to get anything from the introductions. Instead, I referenced the value that I’d work to bring to the introductions, even through the initial interactions. Likewise, if you do get an introduction, don’t just ask the person to connect or get together without telling them how you’ll try to bring them value.
  5. Provide names and language. It may sound obvious, but be sure to ask for introductions to specific people and recommend language to be used for the introduction. This will make it much easier and efficient.
  6. Ask for a direct introduction. If I were at a social or networking event, I wouldn’t normally go over and ask someone for their permission before introducing someone else to them. Similarly, I’m in favor of making direct introductions by sending an email to both parties. I ask that others do that as well, rather than serving as a go-between. It saves time and, if the person receiving the introduction doesn’t want to make a connection (why wouldn’t they?), they can tell the other person directly.
  7. Honor it. It should go without saying that introductions are sacred and should be treated with great care. Just as your relationship capital travels to the introduced parties, so does some of your reputation. I will sometimes say to people making an introduction for me, “Trust that I will not waste this person’s time. I’ll bring as much value as I can, and I’ll treat them with the utmost respect.”
  8. Circle back. Since relationship capital and reputational risk travels to introductions, the introducing party might like to know what value has been created. If you get an introduction, make sure to thank and update the person that made the introduction.

Perhaps the most important step of all is to make it a priority. Too many people don’t proactively and regularly make and ask for introductions. Maybe you’re too busy, too protective, too afraid, or too comfortable with your relationship network just as it is. As rational as these reasons may be, they don’t measure up to all the value that you’re failing to get or give.

Your next introduction is just an ask away. Which ones will you prioritize this week?



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